Monday, February 25, 2013

an afternoon with smugglers

Evelyn Waugh had visited Boa Vista in 1933, coming down from what was then British Guiana, and told the story in his travel book Ninety-two Days.  He described his first encounter with the residents, thus: “The vaqueiros studied us with an air which I came to recognize as characteristic of Boa Vista . . . conveying, as it did, in equal degrees, contempt, suspicion and the suggestion that only listlessness kept them from active insult.”  And later, “[The inhabitants] are naturally homicidal by inclination, and every man, however poor, carries arms; only the universal apathy keeps them from frequent bloodshed . . . The German at the Priory constantly slept with a loaded gun at his bedside and expressed surprise at seeing me go shopping without a revolver.”  It was mainly on the strength of Waugh’s account that I went to Boa Vista and I was not disappointed.

     When Waugh visited the place it was sleepy and retrograde; when I visited it was wild west.  Boa Vista has grown in a few years from a village of 5,000 to a bustling town of over 50,000, fueled by the discovery of gold and diamonds.  In addition to prospectors, the area had attracted landless squatters from the Northeast who are encroaching on the large estates and the substantial Indian lands.  This is in addition to Boa Vista’s traditional industry of smuggling.  If Manaus prices had seemed to be set for Japanese businessmen, Boa Vista prices seemed to be set for successful gold prospectors.

     The Territory of Roraima, the northern-most part of Brasil, is the home of the Yanomami Indians, the largest primitive group in Latin America.  There are perhaps 20,000 Yanomami all told, living in adjoining areas of Brasil, Colombia and Venezuela.  Those living in Brasil number perhaps 9,000.  Their rights to their ancestral lands are allegedly protected by Brasilan law, but the boundaries had never been demarcated and with the urging and support of resident priests the Indians were claiming nine million acres.  Since in other parts of the country squatters are willing to risk death and kill to claim 20 or 30 acres, I asked one of the priests if he thought a claim of 1,000 acres for every man, woman and child was going to be thought reasonable.  He replied that when you are negotiating you have to start by asking for more than you expect to get.

     Old ways are slow to change in Boa Vista.  In the previous year, I was told, at the conclusion of a political dispute between the territorial governor and the mayor of Boa Vista, pistoleiros allegedly in the employ of the governor shot the mayor down in the street in broad daylight.  There were no prosecutions and local folk were said to be more outraged by the style than the substance of the shooting, as most I spoke with agreed that the mayor deserved what he got.

     Proximity to the Guyana and Venezuela borders, currency instability in Brasil and the utter chaos in Guyana’s Marxist economy have fueled an active local smuggling industry.  Most of the players were said to congregate socially at what is called “the Mafia corner,” a short distance up from the river.  They were a colorful bunch, with much gold jewelry.  A number carried large brown paper bags from which they periodically drew thick bundles of banknotes to exchange with other local businessmen also carrying brown paper bags.  They had the contented look of men who did not pay taxes.

     I spent an afternoon waiting for our car to be fixed in the company of a bunch of Guyanese smugglers at Kitty’s Beer Garden.  They were in an expansive mood and telling tales of their exploits.  The only one that had any charm was related by a fellow in a lilting Caribbean accent, thus: “I was going across the border with four kilos of gold bars in my bag and this customs guy comes up and says ‘what you got in that bag, gold bars?’ and I say ‘Yeah,’ and he laughs and goes on.”  I had somehow expected smugglers to have more interesting stories.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I arrive in Boa Vista

I arrive in Boa Vista, in the Territory of Roraima, in the far north of Brasil, at three degrees North Latitude, at six in the morning and am met by my guide George who steers me to the Hotel Euzebio where, for $15, I have a nice, albeit monastic, cell off the lobby.  The air conditioner was set on “high” and the knob removed and there is a single thin sheet on the bed, so that my effective choices were too much air conditioning or none at all.  I suspect the management think they know which I will choose, but they are wrong.

George says he will see me at “midday”.  Not “noon” or “one o’clock”, but “midday”: this is Latin America.  There are flies on the plush furniture in the lobby of the Hotel Euzebio, as well as on the men sitting in them who look like heavies in a Clint Eastwood western.

On the large map of the Territory of Roraima on the wall of the hotel lobby I am struck how indeterminate seem so many portions of the national boundary, wandering with gentle, supple vagueness through mountains, gaining definition only when the line runs between named peaks.  If oil is ever found there I am sure matters will be clarified.

In those days Boa Vista could be reached by land from the rest of Brasil only by a single road coming up from Manaus, unpaved except for the last fifty kilometers and in this season made impassible by high water.  
Boa Vista lies near Guyana, the old British Guiana, and my guide was accompanied by a friend, a former Guyanese of English ancestry who had had to flee the country after taking part in an unsuccessful revolt against the Marxist regime of Forbes Burnham, and who immediately began telling me of the many wrongs and misfortunes which the Comrade Leader had inflicted on the country and the low state to which he had brought it.  I had heard Forbes Burnham was a Marxist and since I had heard nothing of his regime’s successes I assumed there had been none, but the particulars of his story I took at face value as I could not see how whether I believed it or not made any difference, and it is much too late in the day to wonder if a system that cannot perform economic calculation can manage an economy.

My guide explained that there were all sorts of difficulties.  That the barge from Manaus with gasoline had not yet arrived and yesterday he had to wait five hours in line and then could purchase only twenty-six litres and today his car is in the garage with a transmission problem and the Indian agency official who is married to some relative of his and whose permission is needed to visit the Indians, but who he assured me will be satisfied with a $100 “tip”, is somehow unavailable and maybe today I might like to go drinking or maybe get some girls.  Sensing the need to establish a tone in the face of looming chaos, I replied that I would be quite happy to see the art museum or visit the botanical gardens, neither of which as far as I knew did they have in Boa Vista, but he understood what I meant and I heard no more of Bacchanalian tourism.

I was pleased to note that the “tip” for the government agent was still only $100, reassuring me that that part of what he had told me was probably on the up-and-up, at least to the extent that one may speak of a bribe to a government official as being on the up-and-up.

I was coming to realize that I am not viewing Boa Vista constructively.  Here, in one of the poorly-accessible far corners of the Amazon jungle, a place that looked so interesting when I read about it, with untamed Indians and reckless gold miners and pistoleiros in the pay of ruthless land barons it just looks like a poor town someplace in the American South.  It wasn’t at all like Greece or other places I’ve been: there were no booted Cretan shepherds, no hookah-smoking Turks, no ancient crones swathed in black and constantly crossing themselves.  The mud in the street was not ancient mud trod by clanking hoplites and turbaned janissaries or churned under the hooves of Villa’s horsemen: it was just mud.  As I was talking with my guide I remarked on the swarm of mosquitoes around our head: he said you get used to that here.

Later, after seeing the car still in pieces on the floor of the mechanic’s garage, George suggests that we hire a plane to take us into Indian country.  The trip in by plane will cost some non-trivial but not outrageous amount, plus the $100 “tip” to the government agent, though I did notice that the exact amount of the “tip” was becoming more vague, and there was of course his fee, and the package was beginning to add up.  I was losing my interest in Indians.  
     I had diffident feelings about intruding on them in the first place, as I could see no benefit to them from my presence  --  and every visit by an outsider was one more piece of cultural disruption  --  and I suspect as a general matter than I can learn more about them from a good library than from a few hours or days on the ground.  

Perhaps sensing my waning enthusiasm, my hosts return to the deviltry of Forbes Burnham and pithy comments on the state of Brasil: “Everything in Brasil is corrupt. It all goes to the people with money and power. You want something, you go to see the Boss and pay him. Otherwise you stand in line with the poor suckers. In this gas shortage, you go to the politician and he’s got a truck in his back yard.”  I assume this particular example was inspired by his having spent five hours in line the day before to purchase 26 litres of petrol.

We agreed that the following day we will drive to Bonfim for two days of Indians, miners, squatters, pistoleiros and other lawless amusements, though it soon develops that the transmission of the car we were going to take has not yet been put back together so I wait out of the morning rain in an air-conditioned gold-buyer’s office.  There are no customers in the office, but the staff  --  probably because they have no idea who I am or what I am doing there  -- make a show of shuffling papers and try unsuccessfully to look busy and after ten or fifteen minutes someone brings me, unbidden, a cafezinho.

My guide eventually returns with no idea when his vehicle will be repaired, so we drive in his other car to see the Indian agent who is married to some relative of his and of whose corruptibility we may rest assured, but the agent turns out to be away from his office and it is there that we run out of gasoline, even though my guide had obtained twenty-six litres the day before, but by this time I have come to accept that everything in Boa Vista is more complicated than an outsider like myself could possibly understand and I do not bother to ask.  Fortunately, we are within walking distance of what is called the Mafia Corner where Guyanese smugglers relax at Kitty’s beer garden and we can get a bite to eat and hear the local news.   One benefit of being so near the former British colony is that any black person you meet probably speaks English.

The beer garden is on a shady bank with a pleasant view of the river and the jungle on the far side.  And on our side are cats, flies, sleeping dogs, mud and litter and a large truck piled with boxes and sifter screens for miners who sift sand looking for diamonds.  There were a half-dozen black women packed into the small cab of the truck and ten or twelve black men sitting uncomplainingly on top in the rain.  It was an African scene.  The driver appears and the truck will not start and the men on top get down to push and the truck coughs and starts, though each firing of a piston threatens to be its last.  The truck is going to Bonfim, as I allegedly am, and I suspect that it is more likely to get there than I am.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I procure a guide

In the afternoon I went to the Museu do Índio in Manaus, an old-fashioned sort of museum run by the Salesians in a building adjoining their school.  I like old-fashioned museums and think dust and poor lighting is important to the museum experience.  Facts are soon forgotten, but the romance of things lingers.

I was talking with a Salesian brother at the Museum and mentioned that I would like to go north, into the area around Boa Vista to see what I could of the Yanomami Indians, and he offered to arrange for me to meet a guide the next morning at my hotel.  (Nowadays, I would ask no such thing, as Indian tourism has apparently become a degrading spectacle and I would want nothing to do with it, but in those days it was apparently not yet what it has become.)
And the next morning I met George, an English Guyanese who lived in Boa Vista, who assured me the whole thing would be no problem, that the government agent charged with protecting the Indians from the cultural disruption of visits by people such as myself would be happy to help us for a $100 “tip” and we would be able to go anywhere we wanted.
This news was disconcerting, as I was concerned about the cultural disruption of visiting a primitive people and assumed that if I got permission at all it would be so limited that I would be protected from doing any damage, but here I was about to be offered unrestricted access to do who knew what kind of unintentional mischief.  But of course they might always just kill me, as they had a reputation as a violent lot.
We talked in a general way about the situation of the Indians and George was quite negative about their prospects and thought them ill-served by the political priests who were advising them, as well as by FUNAI, the government agency supposedly protecting them.  He said it was good to go now because who knew what the future held, and if I were interested in traditional culture that it was slipping away, that even the anthropologists who had tried to be careful had changed things.

One problem we would have, he said, would be the high water.  It had taken out the one road that connected Boa Vista to Manaus which, among other things, meant that gasoline was running low in the town as it now had to be brought in by barge and there seemed to be some delays, but perhaps that would be cleared up in a day or so.  He was flying back to Boa Vista later that morning and I arranged to follow in the evening.

My cab driver to the airport called himself “Jumbo” and was a fine fellow and we chattered away in that polyglot melange where if we do not know the word in one language you substitute one from a language that you do know and think might mean more or less the same and we got along just fine.  When I mentioned that I had never tasted cachaça, a potent liquor distilled from sugar cane, he stopped at one of those lean-to shacks with a palm thatch roof and a plank bar that we see everywhere along the road where they sell the stuff from large bottles without labels and I bought a round.  
Travelers who have written about cashaça describe it as tasting like paint thinner and I had wondered how they could know this, as I could not imagine that anyone had actually tasted paint thinner, though once I tasted cashaça I had to agree that it did taste like paint thinner, even though I had never tasted paint thinner myself.  I couldn’t finish the thing and gave it to a fellow sitting at the bar who clearly appreciated it more than I did.

Street vendors in Manaus sold large, fantastic and unfriendly-looking knives and I had wondered who bought such things.  It turned out that the fellow I was sharing the cab with had bought one.  The case was of a plastic material, molded into grotesque shapes, combined with bone and leather and fur. The handle was in the shape of a macaw, with a large red plastic eye.  The blade was massive and dangerous-looking.  Conan the Barbarian would have thought it excessive.  My cab mate had paid ten Dollars for it and was quite pleased with his purchase.  I wondered what sort of outfit you would wear it with.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

arriving at Manaus

A large, benign-looking insect insists on sharing my hammock.  Considering everything I have read about tropical diseases, it is no small accomplishment for an insect to look benign. I had read about Chagas Disease and Leishmaniasis and sepsis lurking everywhere, of bugs who bury their eggs in human flesh where their loathsome progeny live long and happy lives.  Or the little fellow who lives in the river and swims up your urethra or the other one who gets in your body and eats it from the inside.  One of the Portuguese sailors tells me he has some creature eating away under the skin of his heel.  It burns furiously and he can have nothing done about it until we reach Manaus.  I suggest he try sunburn cream as a topical anesthetic.
     “Parasite” is from the Greek and means one who dines at another’s table, making one sound almost a poor host if one objects.  I had come back from Central America with some fearsome-looking bites, but fortunately they had proven unoccupied.  Considering all the horrid, repellent little creatures that crawl and slither, flitter and bite that you may run into in the jungle, I think I would prefer to encounter an honest jaguar. 

Our last night on the boat was cold, which I would have thought an odd thing at 3º South Latitude, but our last day promised to be hot, even by local standards.  I once more bought my breakfast from the ladies who had set up a kitchen on the second deck, rather than struggle with the crowds to get the breakfast I have already paid for in my ticket.  An insect the size of a running shoe crawled out of my bag.  One of my fellow passengers, a young girl, having finished her morning duties, sits down with a Bible held  together with tape and opens it to the Psalms.  After a while she puts the Bible aside and opens a photo magazine.  I apparently give the impression of being a veteran traveler as a Danish fellow asked me if I made this trip often.  I answered that if I had ever made the trip once I would never have made it again.

In late afternoon of the sixth day, after traveling on the River over a thousand miles, we reached Manaus.  I was disappointed that it didn’t look at all as it did in Werner Herzog’s film “Fitzcarraldo” where the wild-haired Klaus Kinski, inexplicably assisted by the beautiful Claudia Cardinale, wants to build an opera house in the middle of the jungle and his plan involves moving a huge steamboat over a mountain, which, even though I knew it was a movie fantasy and set a century ago, had nonetheless colored my expectations of the place. 

It was early evening when I left the boat at the floating steel pier and caught a cab to a promising-sounding hotel. I must have been a bit disoriented because I remember thinking that the cab driver was trying to defraud me though he was probably only trying to charge the inflation-adjusted fare as they had in Rio.  Anyway, there was a bracing fuss and I pretended to speak only German, so the fellow gave up and I now hope he overcharged someone else to make him whole from my unfortunate behavior.  

It was a nice hotel and I slept late the next morning and woke up achy and congested and with a headache and remembered that someone had said something about the flu on the boat and realized that I had been on a plague ship.  I had a 100º+ fever and after six days on the river looked something like Walter Huston’s Old Prospector character in “The Treasure of Sierra Madre”.  I realized I was in a haze and that this was probably not a good condition to go roaming around a strange city.  When I found a pharmacist I got no further than saying that I had just gotten off the boat and he clucked knowingly and gave me something that made me feel better, though everything around me beyond about fifteen feet away was vague.  It seemed a good day to stay in bed.

I woke at six the next morning and it was raining.  As I was still recovering from my authentic plague ship experience, I stayed around my room most of that day and napped and watched television.  Later in the afternoon, I wandered out to see a little of the city.

The area of Manaus near my hotel, an older part of town, had the feel of fantasy about it.  There were turn-of-the-century tile-fronted buildings holding shops packed with high-tech products, as Manaus is a free port.  There were street peddlers and smart shop girls.  Omega, Seiko and Tissot watches crammed into three-foot-wide watch shops that I find as reassuring as the fellow who has them pinned to the inside of his raincoat.  Beggars with deformed limbs and people buying large-screen TVs and everywhere there are signs for Japanese firms and here, in the heart of the world’s greatest jungle, there is not the least sense of its presence.  A city seemingly unconnected to its surroundings.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

an ordinary day on the boat

In the heat of the tropical afternoon a pretty young mother of two girls stopped by my hammock to chat, her voice in those soft, graceful sibilants by which the Portuguese justify the conceit that their speech is the Language of the Angels.  As usual, I understood about twenty percent of what was being said, but I smiled amicably and agreed with everything and as she left she touched my wrist and said “ciao”.  An interesting word, as it is a short form of schiavo, meaning “I am your slave”, which, while today it has no servile connotation, was in those tropical surroundings, redolent in my mind of plantation and patriarchy, still a bemusing association, one of the little pleasures of my largely useless education.

There are large boats on the river.  Barges loaded with semi-trailers and cattle boats and ocean-going container ships on their way upriver to Manaus.  The river, unimproved, is navigable almost to the Andes.  The huge catchment basin of the forest constantly fed by tropical rain, the flow of the River so strong that it has no delta but sweeps all its sediments out to sea. 

I was told that ocean-going vessels may navigate the River as far as the city of Iquitos, in Peru, and that a 300-mile plume of fresh water extends from its mouth into the Atlantic, and that the River tears loose great mats of floating vegetation that carry off  men and large animals and the unbelievable volumes of fresh water that each day the River washes down to the sea, and on and on . . ..  Or that hidden in its vast, dark waters there are catfish large enough to swallow a human or along its jungle banks fishermen have mated with dolphins who then gave birth to creatures stranger still.  What is interesting to me is not whether these stories are true, but that the presence of the River inspires such awe that these stories seem plausible.

A woman had come on board at Santarém.  She was from Itaituba, a town up the Rio Tapajós.  She said she had to leave because her husband had been killed in retaliation for a killing by his brother and important people were involved and so the police were not interested in the matter.  I have no idea how much of that was so, but it was widely believed that this was how things were done in the Amazon.  As with other stories about the River, the vastness of jungle and the remoteness of settlements and widespread sense of the law’s unreliability makes plausible other stories, as that on remote plantations poor whites are still held as slaves, but there are wonders here enough without trafficking in hearsay.

Past Óbidos the land along the north bank is more and more cleared.  There is almost no forest and some signs of erosion.  It is tame, agricultural land.  The south bank, which I can see only from a distance, seems more forested, though even there I see more small dwellings.  There seems so much empty land in the Amazon.  It is easy to see how it could be thought to be “a Land without Men for Men without Land.”
     At six that evening we came to Juruti, a small, pleasant-looking framing community.  There was a circus in town.  The barkeeper on the upper deck asked my opinion of a hundred-dollar bill. He assumed that an American must know this sort of thing, though I don’t know that I have ever seen a bogus dollar, but I went over it with a hand lens and said it looked fine to me.  Broad patches of vegetation torn loose from the bank and trunks of large trees float past us down stream.  
     There are large, red-hooded carrion birds along the river and white, heron-like birds and black birds that look to have a three-foot wingspan.  I am sure this would all be hugely fascinating if I cared about birds, but I do not.
     An ordinary day on the boat.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

from Santarém to Óbidos

Our boat stayed close to the northern bank to avoid the downstream current and the River was so wide that we only had a near view of this one side.  Once past the few settlements, there are vast stretches of forest with only the occasional open pasture land and only here and there a flimsy structure of cane and matting and plank came out on stilts from the muddy bank, where families quietly and expressionlessly watched us pass.  There were husbands and wives and sometimes an old parent, and many young children, but almost no one who looked like a teenager or young adult, as if when the children reached a certain age they leave and go somewhere else, though I have lost track of the days of the week and perhaps it was only that some of them were at school, but I saw this everywhere along the length of the River.

We saw fires on the far bank.  In several places thick smoke came up from a broad stretch the forest, though the fires seemed separated, as if only certain tracts were being burnt, probably being cleared for cattle.  Brasilian land owners have a problem with forest, for if they do not clear it and put it into use they fear they will be accused of holding idle land and threatened with expropriation.  This insecurity of property makes it very hard to develop a farm, let alone manage a forest.  This policy, ostensibly hostile to latifundia,  in fact favors large enterprises with the capital to immediately put their land into use and makes it difficult for small ranchers who would grow their operation over time to hold contiguous undeveloped land until their herd has grown to need use of it.  

At dawn on the 15th we were back in the main channel, headed for the town of Óbidos.  The River is brownish-white again, colored by sediment of upstream runoff.  As I had feared, my hammock at the railing, fine a view as it provided, proved a bit of a problem when it rained, but a small adjustment brought me under shelter and tropical rain is very good about falling straight down.

The packs of children  --  I would guess them about eight to twelve years old and all of them well-behaved  --  who roam the boat have made my hammock one of their regular stops and I entertain them with the low-tech wonders from my shoulder bag.  An odd thing I noticed was that they didn’t seem to know how how to use a magnifying glass, insisting on holding it up to their eye like a monocle.  Or perhaps they simply found the idea of a monocle more interesting than a magnifying glass.  Though we had plenty of sun there were no ants at hand, so I had no occasion to teach them that childhood staple.  The idea of adjusting binoculars also seemed uncongenial to them.  They are very considerate children who, when they found me in my hammock writing or concentrating on something they would not disturb me but just pass by and some of them gently touch my shoulder.  At Óbidos, a little girl woke me from a nap so that I could see the town.

I get hot when I put on even my sunglasses.  How did Indiana Jones do it in a felt hat and leather jacket?  I discover that the fellow from San Francisco who runs the bar also sells bathroom tissue, something which the ship owners had apparently not considered part of our passage.  Also I discover that in the morning the soft drinks and beer are actually cold, which is not the case later in the day.

On a crowded boat there is of course a great deal of litter produced and I discovered that there were only two ways to dispose of it.  I could throw it into the river myself, or I could put it in one of the two small trash receptacles I have found on our deck and a member of the crew will throw it into the river on my behalf.  Embracing the ethical defense of an intervening moral agency, I chose the second of these.  It could be argued that there is a third option: to carry my trash with me when I leave the boat; but I suspect I would need to go quite some distance inland to be confident that it wouldn’t wind up back in the river, and futile actions are not ethically required.

As we sprawled about, perspiring, in our T-shirts, a German fellow showed me a glossy advertisement from our shipping line that showed a dapper traveler in a pith helmet and a text promising that a trip up the Amazon on one of their boats would be a real adventure.  He thought the ad was quite amusing.
     I am constantly moving about, trying to find a breeze or at least someplace less hot.  Even moving with tropical economy, I perspire continually.  Quite a few got off at Santarém, but there still seem almost as many on board as before.  In the constant press of people there is privacy only in my dreams.  And constant noise. A hard place for the spirit.  But on board the ship is the brown man’s tropics, not the white man’s tropics of verandahs and porters and servants with iced lemonade and long naps in the shade.  There are a few people on board who do not have hammocks and they sleep on life vests spread on the deck like a mattress , which however adequate it may be is less so when the deck is awash with rainwater, which they gamely ignore.  On board our boat it is not the tropics of those insulated by money and race and class.  Not some literary tropics where expats sip rum and write novels.  Despite all this, I am actually finding it interesting, as if there were some pleasure in the discomfort.  This was something new for me.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

entering the main channel

We passed the confluence of the Rio Xingú and the river seemed to widen.  The Italian sailors invited me topside to a video interview with an old fellow who had a camcorder and we jabbered away for a while in a mish-mosh of Italian and English and Spanish and seemed amazingly enough to understand each other.  I watched the playback and did not appear a complete fool, even with the red bandana around my forehead that I had forgotten I was wearing.

Dawn of the third day oozes over the horizon directly astern of our boat.  I can lie in my hammock and watch it come up over the River.  We are a few minutes south of the Equator and the Amazon runs east and west and the morning sun enfilades our boat, briefly lighting up the open stalls of the deep interior where families have piled their bundles and hung their hammocks and set up temporary home.  A wake-up call to be up and in line for breakfast before they return to their hammocks for another day of doing nothing because, of course, on the boat there is nothing to do.  All  things considered, I think the children are remarkably well behaved.

The river had changed from brown to black.  We must have finally passed Marajó and entered the main channel of the Amazon.  Breakfast on the third morning was a half-cup of coffee with sugar and cream and all the stale crackers you wanted.  At 7:30 we stopped at Monte Alegre and food sellers came on board.  For about thirty cents I bought a slab of white cheese, dry and slightly sharp, from a little boy.  It was quite good.  He said his mother made it.  I took a few perfunctory photographs of the town in case anyone should later demand proof that I had been to Monte Alegre and wondered why anyone of their own volition would come here.

Floating masses of vegetation like small islands drift past our boat, giving the impression of movement, though we are still tied up.  At length, we are underway again.

Our first trouble: a man rushes down from the upper deck with a small child limp in his arms.  As they pass me the child opens her eyes and looks at me, them closed them again.  With four or five hundred people on a six-day voyage, I suppose the demographic contingencies of birth and death might catch up with us.  I never heard what happened to her.

In mid-morning the clouds part and the sun turns my hammock into an oven and I flee into the interior of the boat.  Topside, I discover that the surly bartender not only speaks English, but is from San Francisco.  I also find that the bar has no salt, which I had been looking for as I was beginning to worry about salt loss from perspiration.
Eventually, I find salt: a cafezinho-cup full, which I put into a plastic bag to carry, while keeping in mind that since the local salt is powdered rather than crystal, that a plastic bag of white powder might look to the authorities less innocent than it in fact was.

Approaching Santarém, we pass into the wide Rio Tapajós and within sight of the town I noticed that the river changed from muddy to dark and clear.  Later that day I heard the first argument.  Some raised voices, but soon settled.  There was not much opportunity to get drunk on the boat.  

I noticed a rainbow and wondered for a moment if I should have expected them to be upside-down in the Southern Hemisphere, or, as we were at the Equator, if it ought to be straight.  In Rio, I had remembered several times to watch water go down a drain to see if it really did go clockwise, as I had long been told the Coriolis Effect required, but thought my results inconclusive.